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Friday, 17 May 2013 00:00

Medway Council Education & Children's Services: all change at the top

The Medway Council Member with responsibility for Children’s Services, Mr Les Wicks, has lost his job in a reshuffle of the Medway Council Cabinet this week. His departure will be widely welcomed by the many families who have been dissatisfied with the quality of education provided by Medway Council, and Mr Wicks’ refusal to accept responsibility for those failures. The Council Leader may have been influenced by an 800 person petition to get rid of him, and regular demands from the Labour side for his resignation, but his dreadful performance at a Medway Council meeting in February will surely have been a more important factor.......



It was reported that: "Cllr Wicks faced a barrage of comments as schools were brought up no less than five times. Cllr Wicks said: 'I have listened to these comments. Those that matter I take notice of; those which are just unpleasant I ignore.' He said the league tables were 'not a position anyone’s trying to be in' but maintained Medway’s results overall were good. Improvement work was in place, he said, but it was the job of a head teacher - not a politician - to turn schools around. One might have expected that the politician in charge of education might show a little humility rather than seek to put all the blame on headteachers working in a difficult climate. The failures of Mr Wicks’ department during his time in office include: Medway being highlighted in last year’s OFSTED annual Report for its dreadful OFSTED results: Medway coming bottom in the country in 2012 for its primary school Key Stage Two standards; Medway’s disgraceful failure in its February OFSTED Inspection on the Protection of Children; the appalling mismanagement of the Medway 11 plus tests in 2011, followed by the Council’s initial refusal to accept responsibility and attempting to put the blame on parents, all followed by a “thorough investigation” by Mr Wicks that failed to acknowledge some of the key issues (more of this in a later article); and the almost regular criticism of the organisation of these tests by the Ombudsman in previous years which appeared to pass by unnoticed.  The shocking financial scandal of the Woodlands Primary school capital development showed the Council had no monitoring in place to control education spending, so that vast sums of money were spent without being authorised.  During this time, many staff lost their jobs, the highest profile one being the previous Director of Children’s Services, Rose Collinson, who took the blame for some of these failures. However, Medway has also seen too many primary heads lose their jobs because of the failure of Medway Council to offer them and their schools proper support. Other problems at Medway Council education are described elsewhere on these pages. 

The new Lead Member for Medway's Children’s Services is Councillor Mike O’Brien  who has an even larger portfolio than Councillor Wicks, includes responsibility for: Primary and secondary education; Further education; School services; Special educational needs; Adoption; Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services; Children's residential care; Children with disabilities; Early years; Fostering; Home to school transport; Inclusion; Integrated Children's Teams; Looked after Children; Specialist youth services; Youth. However, in a welcome development, Medway Council has appointed a second Cabinet member, Councillor Kelly Tolhurst, to take on responsibility for Educational Improvement  as directed by the Children's Services Portfolio Holder. The need for such a focus is clearly imperative even though it has only so belatedly been recognised. 

I genuinely wish both Cabinet Members well in the enormous task of restoring confidence in Medway Council’s education provision and children’s services and providing Medway's children with the quality of education they deserve. 

Last modified on Sunday, 16 March 2014 17:20

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